Listening Is All It Takes Fostering community growth, one solution at a time
Contrary to what you may believe, communities don’t just happen. They don’t thrive simply because strangers choose to develop their futures under the same umbrella or within a specific radius. It takes organizations like the South Lansing Community Development Association (SLCDA) to form the backbone of a strong community.
The SLCDA, which works within some 60 percent of Lansing’s city limits, embodies the very spirit that must be present to transform an area into a home for residents. The SLCDA has dedicated time and energy toward a single mission: fostering communication and resource sharing across diverse networks of neighborhood, school, business, faith, nonprofit and government organizations so that citizens feel connected, informed, empowered and committed to building a strong, healthy, vibrant South Lansing community.
While these areas of emphasis may seem simple enough, Executive Director Kathie Dunbar will be the first to remind us that things are easier said than done.
“We always have lots of plates spinning at once. Right now, we’re meeting with folks from the Lansing School District about expanding our garden partnership at the Hill Center,” explained Dunbar. “We’re working on economic development and public art initiatives in Southwest Lansing. We’re coordinating leadership training for residents in public housing. We’re gearing up for our largest annual event, the Hawk Island Triathlon (June 3-4). And we’re in the process of recruiting our next pool of interns. People are often surprised by the volume and scale of work we do with so few staff. It’s only possible because of our dedicated volunteers and interns.”
Hawk Island Triathlon, the largest multi-sport race in the state, is a crowning achievement for SLCDA. This year’s race will be its 10th and that alone is something to celebrate; however, the biggest success of this event lies in its ability to provide free recreational opportunities that encourage folks to get healthy and fit in South Lansing.
“The sense of community around this race is amazing. We have a hundred volunteers who provide a welcoming, supportive environment for newbies,” said Dunbar. “We pride ourselves on making the race accessible to folks of all ages, sizes and abilities. We’ve had racers with multiple sclerosis, visual impairments, an amputee … we will work with anyone to find accommodations that allow them to participate.”
In addition to propelling health and fitness in the area, the economic impact from the event hasn’t gone unnoticed either; recently SLCDA proudly accepted the Greater Lansing Sports Authority’s 2017 Community Champion Award for the positive impact the triathlon has had on the local economy.
The triathlon may be its most notable success but the SLCDA doesn’t quit when they hit the finish line. The association is constantly working to identify other areas of the community that could benefit from a little TLC.
“We listen. It’s that simple. South Lansing Community Development Association was born out of the Kellogg Foundation Community Voices Project, and we’ve continued this legacy,” mentioned Dunbar. “Over the last 15 years, we’ve led neighborhood planning meetings, facilitated visioning sessions, hosted community interest forums, conducted surveys, assisted with city-wide master planning, etc. Our priorities and projects are guided by the voices of our community. ”
Other notable ways that the organization continues to give to the community include programs like the South Lansing Farmers Market. In an effort to remain accessible to everyone, the market accepts cash, credit cards, bridge cards, DUFB, WIC project fresh and senior project fresh benefits.
The SLCDA prides itself on stretching its dollars through community partnerships, but monetary and in-kind assistance are always welcome. The group is never short on volunteer opportunities and welcomes applications for new board members.
To learn more call (517) 374-5700 or visit SLCDA online at southlansing.org.